Here’s a round-up post on everything fishy; old fish, new fish, technology to catch fish, technology to save fish, plus news on whales, sharks and dugongs.
Really Big “JAWS”
Let’s start with some really, Big News, a newly discovered fish estimated to have been about 6.5 feet long with massive jaws that opened extra wide. You won’t come face to face with it on your next dive, because it swam the world’s oceans about 100 million years ago.
Known as Rhinconichthys, a fossil of the ancient fish was recently discovered in Colorado. Similar fossils had previously been discovered in Japan and England indicating a worldwide range for the species. The fish’s feature that is most remarkable is the huge swinging jaws that worked as a plankton scoop. (image- Robert Nicholls)
“Based on our new study, we now have three different species of Rhinconichthys from three separate regions of the globe,” said Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist at DePaul University. “This tells just how little we still know about the biodiversity of organisms through the Earth’s history. It’s really mindboggling.” See the entire article on Fox News Science.
Never-Before-Seen Sea Creatures
Another discovery from the world’s deepest waters was reported in New Scientist. NOAA scientists aboard the Okeanos research ship were stunned when they saw images taken during a series of dives into the earth’s deepest depths, the Mariana trench.
“Every time we make a dive, we see something new. It’s mind-boggling,” said Patricia Fryer of the University of Hawaii. See this and more on our Blue Ocean Post: Awesome and a Bit Bizarre Marine Life Discoveries and the entire article on newscientist.com.
More New Discoveries, in a Warming Ocean
Science News reports on two newly discovered phytoplankton groups, unlike any previously known species. Most interesting, these new phytoplankton were found in low nutrient, warm waters, as diverse as the Sargasso Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the North Pacific Gyre. This discovery could have important implications for future ocean ecosystems in a world of warming oceans.
“These new phytoplankton appear to thrive in the world’s most desert-like waters where most other eukaryotic species decrease,” said Alexandra Z. Worden, of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. “As microbes in our oceans are forced to adapt to climate change, these are the types of organisms we really need to understand,” Worden added.
Fighting the Lionfish Invasion with Robots
Lionfish are voracious, adaptable and an invasive species that are threatening the island’s native fish and coral reef eco-system. This is where the America’s Cup, British team, Land Rover BAR and its sponsor, 11th Hour Racing come in. (photo – Geoffrey Gardner)
Ben Ainslie, skipper of the British team said, “Being in Bermuda and talking to the locals, you realize the extent of the lionfish issue, and the potential devastation it could cause.”
Since Lionfish can live in waters as deep as 1000 feet, the solution may be the deployment of a robot prototype, financed by Land Rover Bar, that is designed to stun and capture lionfish, in waters deeper than those reached by human divers.
“It’s an inventive way to try and tackle this issue,” Ainslie said. “I’m sure it’s going to get developed over time, and I’m sure they’ll make it work.” See the entire article at the Nytimes. See the Blue Ocean post: What’s for Dinner? Not Lionfish Again! and: New Rules Make it Easier for Divers to Catch Lionfish in Florida
Sea-Going Robots Mimic Plankton
Here’s an extraordinary new tool in the study of plankton and ocean currents. Researchers at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego have built, miniature, autonomous underwater explorers, or M-AUEs, to study the ocean’s on-going environmental processes. Equipped with sensors to record ocean temperatures, they can adjust their buoyancy to maintain a constant depth as they drift with the ocean currents..
Potentially, thousands of M-AUEs could be deployed to capture a three-dimensional picture of the interactions between marine life and ocean currents. (photo – Jaffe lab, Scripps)
A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications tested theories about plankton density, research that may eventually enlighten us on ocean phenomenon like red tides. See more at Sciencedaily.com.
Over Fishing: Good News, Bad News For Fisheries
Where Did All the Sardines Go?
As reported in EcoWatch, for the third consecutive, year U.S. fisheries managers have closed down Pacific commercial sardine fishing saying there are not enough sardines to support continued fishing.
“This modern day Pacific sardine crash, which was exacerbated by excessive fishing when the population was falling, underscores the need for new approaches to fishery management,” said Geoff Shester, California campaign director for Oceana. “We hope managers learn from this and strengthen safeguards to protect sardines and the ocean wildlife dependent on sardines, while also supporting sustainable fishing communities.” (photo – guysandgoodhealth.com)
This northern sardine population ranges from Baja California, along the coast of the US, to British Columbia in Canada and is fished by all three countries without a common fisheries management agreement.
Un-fished sardines are a necessary food source for whales, sea lions, brown pelicans and Chinook salmon. “Over the last four years we’ve witnessed starved California sea lion pups washing up on beaches and brown pelicans failing to produce chicks because moms are unable to find enough forage fish,” said Ben Enticknap, of Oceana.
Over-fishing of Wrass and Farmed Salmon
Wrasse are small “cleaner” fish that perform a symbiotic role in farming salmon by painlessly pecking sea lice off the salmon’s skin. Using wrasse enables the salmon farmers to avoid using powerful pesticides to remove the lice. However there is a downside, the wrasse are obtained by fishing them from the wild and new research indicates that this has depleted the wrasse population with potential effects on the marine ecosystem. (photo – Daily Scandinavian)
For decades Wrasse have been caught and shipped to salmon farms along the coast of southern Norway. In this area there are also marine protected areas where the fishing of wrasses is not permitted. New research now indicates that the populations of wrasse can be 60% to 90% lower in the fishing areas in comparison to the no fishing sanctuaries. Read more in the: newscientist.com.
Trawling for Data In the Bering Sea
Every summer, scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center are collecting data in the Bering Sea to better understand and manage this important marine resource. The eastern Bering Sea supports some of the world’s most valuable fisheries and a new study examines how these fish populations have varied over the last 34 years. Since this has also been a period of extensive climate change this study may shed light on the implications for fish populations facing future climate variations. (photo coreyfishes.com)
“This is a place where we can watch changes in the marine environment,” says NOAA’s fisheries biologist Steve Barbeaux, the lead author of the study. “Climate variability has increased in the Bering Sea in recent years, and we can use that to study how ecosystems respond to change.”
The data uncovered annually includes ocean temperatures and the size and distribution of fish species, all information that helps to determine quotas for sustainable fishing. However now this data has been analyzed as never before, comparing information from 1986 thru 2016 to show patterns of the history of these fish over space and time. Read more about this fascinating new study at NOAA Fisheries.
CRED in the Coral Triangle: an ecosystem approach to fisheries management
Here’s a mouthful CRED stands for the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and they are doing invaluable work in the coral triangle, by helping the surrounding countries to conserve their marine resources Six countries encompass the coral triangle, stretching from Malaysia and Indonesia in the west to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in the east and north to include the Philippines.
The Coral triangle is the world’s center of marine biodiversity and its fisheries provide food security and livelihoods for millions of people. But do to over-fishing, surging populations and climate change these fisheries are severely threatened. Consequently the need to sustainably manage and protect the coral reefs that these fish and human populations depend on is imperative. Read more about CRED and the Coral Triangle Initiative at NOAA See our Blue ocean post: Heart of the Coral Triangle now has a Home On the Web
Volunteers Saving Whales In Iceland
Volunteers from many countries are converging in Iceland this year, to inform and educate tourists that it is not cool to eat whale meat while visiting Iceland and to gather signatures for a petition to increase an Icelandic whale sanctuary. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and its Icelandic partners are calling for Faxafloi Bay outside the capital city of Reykajavik to be declared a whale sanctuary.
Presently in the bay, in a truly bazaar juxtaposition, tourists on whale watching boats can enjoy the spectacle of watching whales in their natural habitat and at the same time watch the hunting of minke whales. See our post: Minke Whales Hunted: Mostly Pregnant Females!
IFAW’s aim this summer is to collect 50,000 signatures in support of the Faxafloi Whale Sanctuary. this effort follows on previous awareness raising campaigns like “Meet Us Don’t Eat Us” highlighting whale watching as an alternative to whaling.
The Plight of Beluga Whales In Captivity
A new documentary film is shining light on Beluga Whales caught in the wild and sold into captivity. These obviously highly intelligent marine mammals are the subject of “Born to Be Free” and follows their path to marine parks in Canada and the United States. Read the entire article at One Green Planet.
Dugong Habitat Shrinks
An article in the TheNational/UAE focuses on new research that suggests that the Arabian Gulf’s Dugong population and habitat are threatened and have shrunk by about a quarter. The shy and elusive dugongs in the Arabian Gulf are at the mercy of numerous hazards including oil spills, shipping traffic, fishing and destruction of their essential seagrass habitats by dredging and land reclamation.
Historic analysis indicates that there are fewer dugongs than previously thought and there density is much lower than in other areas. It is estimated that dugongs in the Gulf now number less than 7,300 individuals. Only the UAE provides protection for the dugong.
“For dugong populations to recover, it is crucially important that governments cooperate on regional plans for their conservation and management and to protect seagrass beds,” said Lance Morgan president of the Marine Conservation Institute.
The good news is that 23 of the 40 countries that have populations of dugongs have come together this month in Abu Dhabi to discuss plans to conserve the dugong. See the update at THENATIONAL/UAE. See the Blue Ocean post: PSA Promotes Manatee Awarenes
Shark Fins Found in Florida
Normally we report about shark finning as something occurring in Asia, however, now the St. Augustine Record reports that the sale and trade of shark fins is alive and well in Florida. (The finning, not the sharks are alive and well, the sharks are dead, but not always, sometimes they are finned while still alive). (photo – Boston Globe)
A bill banning the sale and trade of shark fins before the Florida Senate was weakened when language regarding sale and trade of shark fins was eliminated, apparently at the behest of the fishing industry. Shark fins are exported to China where they are destined for shark fin soup.
Florida originally prohibited finning in 1992 and the law was strengthened in 2010 but that has not stopped the sale or trade of fins because of loopholes.
“Eleven other states that had ports where this activity was taking place have already banned the sale and trade of shark fins,” said Erin Handy, campaign organizer for Oceana, “Florida would have been the twelfth.” See our Blue Ocean posts on sharks and the international efforts to ban shark finning.: Shark-A-Thon: Latest News & Gossip on Sharks
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